Top 5 things I’ve learned from starting my first company
What I know now that I wish I would’ve known from day 1
It’s been about 16 months since Luc and I quit our jobs and started building Often full-time. Since then, we’ve managed to raise a round, have it fall apart, almost get sued by Drake, work out of Luc’s apartment, eat Così everyday for 0.79 cents and somehow raise again. Now we sit at the top of 1 State St in FIDI where we have an office, desks, FIFA, and are building apps for people like us.
Tomorrow I’ll be 24. Even though I feel exhausted, I’ve never been more excited to wake up in the morning and come to work. I can’t say enough about our team and how much they’ve helped us grow. They’re family.
1. Culture is everything
Care about the people you work with. They don’t work for you, they work with you. Everyone brings something to the table. You brought them on for a reason. Have lunch as a team at least every other week. Go out with them. Talk to them 1 on 1 and make sure they’re good, even if it’s casual. Read peoples moods, everyone has good days and bad days. Celebrate birthdays. Learn how to balance a professional relationship with friendship. There’s always a middle ground, you just have to find it. Set expectations. Let everyone be responsible for their own work. The culture you build for your company in the first 2 years is whats going set you apart from an ok company to a company people actually want to work at.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Especially from your investors
Startups are fucken hard. So many founders talk about the highs and never mention the lows. If you’re fortunate enough to have investors or advisors, talk to them at least once a month, if not more. They want to see you win just as much as you do. This whole journey is an emotional rollercoaster. Some days you’re on top of the world and others you’re just like what the fuck am I doing. Ask for help.
3. If you are raising and it’s not going well, know when to stop
If you’re in the middle of raising a round and aren’t getting a yes after 2–3 months, it’s probably a safe bet to call it. Stop wasting your time on meetings and get back to work. Odds are that your time is better well spent on product than trying to convince someone who’s already made up their mind. If investors give you a no or try to drag things out, why not come back in a few weeks with progress in hand? If you feel like you’re almost at that yes then go with your gut. Don’t get caught wasting your time though.
4. Having a product background doesn’t always help
It does but it doesn’t. It’s very dangerous to get caught up in making things perfect. It’s funny how when you go from a larger company to building a startup, you end up tossing most of the things you learned out the window. You don’t have time to make things perfect or catch all the bugs. Always ship first, polish later. It doesn’t matter how perfect it is if no one is picking it up. Keep it as an MVP until you see something stick. Don’t feature creep.
5. This is a lonely job. Make friends with other founders
Your job as a founder is to make sure there’s money in the bank, motivate your team and set a vision for the company. Sometimes this is really hard to do though. Especially when things are going south. Be transparent about company issues but don’t share all your problems with the team. They shouldn’t be worried about the same things you are. Instead, meet and make friends with other founders. Odds are they’ve gone through the exact same thing and have a better chance of understanding. Shoutout to Luc, Nathan, Shinji, Jack, Mario, Frank, Alex, Julian and John for all our catch ups. It’s definitely helped keep me sane throughout all this. Much love.
Now some photos :)
Lastly, here are a few points that didn’t make it into the top 5 but I felt still deserved a mention:
- Always raise 1.5x to 2x what you think you’ll actually need.
- If you’re raising, tell your story, how you got there and be yourself.
- Have a backup to the back up plan. Things always go wrong. Stay woke.
- Working hard doesn’t mean working smart. Everyone has their own way of working and your way might not be productive for someone else.
- Over hiring early is dangerous, use contractors and freelancers wisely.
If you’re a founder or investor and have any other insights I missed, feel free to contribute in the comments below. Thanks for reading 👊🏽